A new Christian college aimed at home-schoolers has been rejected for accreditation because of its policy requiring faculty to adhere to a “biblical worldview” regarding the origin of the world.
Patrick Henry College in northern Virginia said yesterday it will appeal the denial of its application for accreditation from the American Academy for Liberal Education, a Washington, D.C.-based “nonprofit, nonpartisan and non-sectarian voluntary membership organization” that calls itself unique because it grounds its process in a “rigorous set of education standards.”
“I think what they are saying is that because we teach creationism we’ve introduced what to them is faux science into our courses,” Patrick Henry College President Michael Farris told WorldNetDaily. “They ignore the fact that we teach about evolution. It’s not good enough to teach about evolution; apparently we have to teach that evolution is the only way to think about things.”
AALE President Jeffrey Wallin told Farris in an April 30 letter that the school’s requirement that faculty teach creationism conflicts with the following two standards:
- AALE’s “Mission Standard Five” says “Liberty of thought and freedom of speech are supported and protected, bound only by such rules of civility and order as to facilitate intellectual inquiry and the search for truth.”
- The accrediting group’s “General Education and Curriculum Standard Eight” says: “The general education requirement ensures a basic knowledge of mathematics and the physical and biological sciences, including laboratory experience, intermediate knowledge of at least one foreign language, the study of literature and literary classics, the political, philosophical and cultural history of Western Civilization, and the foundations and principles of American society. Variations from this norm are allowable in cases where the outstanding character of other elements of the general education program assures substantial compliance with these standards.”
Wallin told Farris that the AALE board found that the “projected Patrick Henry College science requirement in biology does not satisfy the requirement of basic knowledge.”
Wallin said the college’s “Statement of Biblical Worldview” “appears to restrict curriculum content and teaching to a degree that inhibits the acquisition of basic knowledge.”
The passage in the college statement to which Wallin specifically objected says the school requires that “faculty who teach biology or other disciplines where questions of origins would naturally arise” affirm the college’s “Statement of Biblical Worldview,” which includes the following:
- “Creation. Any biology, Bible, or other courses at PHC dealing with creation will teach creationism from the understanding of Scripture that God’s creative work, as described in Genesis 1:2-31, was completed in six 24-hour days. All faculty for such courses will be chosen on the basis of their personal adherence to this view. PHC does not intend to limit biblically-based discussion of this issue; provided, however, that evolution, ‘theistic’ or otherwise, will not be treated as an acceptable theory.”
“This is definitely not a question of whether our students are going to be exposed to knowledge,” Farris said, “but whether or not we are allowed to believe what we want to believe.”
Wallin and another AALE spokesman were unavailable for comment.
Farris said that while rejection by AALE, a private group, has “overtones of constitutional violations,” it comes down to a breach of contract.
“We paid them good money to have a contract with us, and that contract is that they are going to follow their rules,” he said. “Their rules say they won’t discriminate on the basis of religion, and they also very clearly say that religious schools have the freedom to limit academic instruction to comply with religious beliefs, right in the contractual documents with us.”
Darrin Coon, the college’s vice president for business and planning, said the investment is much more than the several thousand dollars in fees required to go through the accreditation process.
A significant amount of senior staff time has been put into the AALE’s “top to bottom” review of the school that began in December of 2000, Coon told WorldNetDaily.
“If that’s all they could find, was that one item of our belief about creation, then we have done an excellent job opening this school,” he said.
Patrick Henry College sought accreditation with the AALE because of the group’s educational philosophy and its standing with the American Bar Association, which is important to the college’s law students, Farris said.
“We thought that AALE was a good fit because they supposedly were a group that was interested in opposing political correctness in colleges and were classically oriented,” said Farris.
Two other startup evangelical colleges also have sought the group’s accreditation, Farris said, but have not been successful so far.
He notes that St. Thomas Aquinas College, a “conservative, traditional Catholic college” in Los Angeles has been accepted by AALE, as has Southern Virginia University, a school that subscribes to the tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Farris’ understanding is that the Mormon school teaches evolution in its science classes and creation in its religion courses.
Patrick Henry is seeking accreditation from at least two other associations, Farris said, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and a Christian association.
Farris wears another hat as chairman and general counsel of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is helping home-schooling groups in some areas of the country fight similar battles because of their creation views. He believes Patrick Henry’s case, though, is the first of its kind against a national accrediting association.
About 98 percent of the school’s approximately 150 students were home-schooled. The college says the average SAT score for next year’s incoming class is about 1300. The school’s debate team has won national championships, and students placed third in the nation at the National Undergraduate Moot Court Competition this year at the University of Texas at Arlington.
The school says it “blends a classical approach with apprenticeship methodology to provide a unique experience in academics.”
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